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Cheap Driver: 1963 Austin Healey Sprite

This pocket-sized Brit is fun incarnate. If you’ve never driven a Sprite or a Midget, try one on for size sometime; they’re not fast but they feel quick. And though small, the handling infuses the driver with confidence – they’re that responsive. These qualities were the goal when Donald Healey and Austin joined forces to fill the “cheap sports car niche” vacated by Austin’s prewar Seven and poorly served by America’s Crosley. Development began in the mid 1950s. The new car was introduced in 1958 and called the “Sprite”; with its bugeyed headlights and grinning grille, the car was aptly named and sold briskly. Updated in 1961, the Mark II sold even more briskly, with the new design solving a few problems that annoyed Sprite owners. This 1963 Austin-Healey  Mk II Sprite is listed here on craigslist for a reasonable $7800. It runs well and can be retrieved from Englewood, Colorado. Thanks to PRA4SNW for spotting this spiffy Sprite for us.

An update arrived in 1961 when the car was given a facelift that traded its charms for practicality. For one thing, it acquired a real boot lid and a bonnet that opened conventionally, with the headlights now situated in the wings. The car retained BMC’s A-series 948 cc four-cylinder until late 1962, albeit with 1 1/4″ SU carbs (upgraded from 1 1/8″) to account for the weight gain over the Bugeye. In October 1962, the motor was stroked to 1098 cc’s, accumulating another couple horsepower. The original transmission was a four-speed manual, but this car has had a Datsun five-speed transplant. Its motor was rebuilt about 6200 miles ago (though that didn’t stop it from leaking about a quart of oil over a year’s time), and the odometer matches that approximate reading. The seller drives the Sprite regularly (and he’s 6’3″), and views a sale as not a necessity but an opportunity to perhaps rotate to another fun car.

The interior matches the seller’s description of the exterior – it’s good from about ten feet: the upholstery isn’t perfect, the after-market steering wheel dominates the delicate dash. But that does not detract from its usability, and these items are easy to correct. The car has a tonneau and a luggage rack, but no word about the condition of the convertible top or side curtains.

The seller indicates that a color change from Fiesta Yellow occurred at some point; pale yellow can be seen in the engine bay, along with the basic black that’s frequently employed to shortcut a proper repaint. This is a square-arch car; research shows that the Sprite never reverted to round arches like its badge-engineered cousin, the MG Midget. Prices have been creeping up, but there’s no question that if you want an inexpensive, fun convertible, the AH Sprite/MG Midget is a great choice even after some appreciation. Parts are easy to find and the cars are easy to work on. If you want to pay top dollar, you’ll be shelling out close to $20k, but cars in the realm of this one are ubiquitous.


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Nailed it, Michelle. They’re quick even if they’re not fast-many grins per minute on a backcountry road. There will be of course be the naysayers of “OMG!!! Some 15” lifted mini truck running on 40” tires will just go over the top of you!!! They’re unsafe at any speed!!!”
    We hear the same hue and cry from timid alarmists about motorcycles too.
    So be it. Better to make a monthly bike payment or buy parts for your car hobby than paying some shrink for an hour on a couch..
    You gotta have some fun in your life.
    This would be the one to begin with if you don’t already have an outlet.

    Like 17
    • TomP

      They’re quick?? Haaahaaa, that’s funny.

      Like 3
      • bobhess bobhess Member

        They are quick enough to have fun with. Cruises at an easy 65 mph with the original 4 speed transmission and exceeds that with the 5 speed.

        Like 7
      • Barry Ervin

        Today, cars that are much faster than this are considered by most people to be too slow to be safely driven on the road. I had a 61 “Bug Eye” Sprite and I remember how incredibly slow it was. Fun, but slooooooow.

        Like 1
      • John Pearson

        I have a 62 Sprite in the same specification as this one with the 1098cc however it is still the factory 4 speed. It’s definitely not fast, but with how low to the ground you sit and the fantastic noise the 1098cc A series makes, it sure gives the impression of speed. I’ve genuinely scared passengers in my Sprite with them telling me I’m going too fast, only to tell them I’m doing 40mph.
        These cars are more than capable of highway speeds at 70mph they are sitting at about 4500 rpm which is near peak torque. It can very easily zip up to 85, red line in top gear is 93. It’s actually stop and go traffic where you notice the lack of power, minivans pull hard on you leaving stop lights.

        Like 4
      • Kelly Breen

        They are agile and feel quick. The 0-60 might be underwhelming, but in traffic the more typical 0-30 is quite reasonable due to its light weight.
        My 1500 is the most enjoyable car I have ever owned even if my Caravan was more practical.

        Like 0
  2. Bamapoppy

    Still leaking oil? Reminds me of the joke; why don’t the Brits build computers? Because they haven’t figured how to make them leak oil! A cute little runabout here, nonetheless less.

    Like 8
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Like I said, how are you going to know you are out of oil if it isn’t leaking out. The engines all the way through the 1275s didn’t have rear seals on the crankshaft. To this day I don’t understand why they didn’t, even after over 30 years of owning several of them. We’ve got one set of race engines that wind to 9,500 rpm and you can be assured that they throw out a bunch of oil during a 30 minute race.

      Like 5
      • Barry Ervin

        I remember when Peugeots had no front crank seal. That was back in the 80s when I worked on them. I assume they did get them at some later date? LOL

        Like 1
  3. Pat

    First 2 cars were a 63 sprite and a 62 midget. They were fun cars that felt faster than they were. Got a few tickets with them. Compression braking drew attention from a few cops, resulting in a few stops….

    Like 2
  4. BA

    As my old Dad used to say there once was a man from Boston who drove a little Austin, all he had room for was a gallon of gas & his a$$!

    Like 3
  5. John

    Gone. Michelle said they were quick.

    Like 4
  6. PRA4SNW

    The post expired, so the car is probably still available. Any interested will have to wait until it is reposted.

    Like 0
  7. Mark Ruggiero Member

    Sprigets were not fast, but they were quite quick, and I’ll take one around most corners over any Detroit iron with 4 times the power. Owned several in youth, well, relative youth anyway. This is a nice example.

    Like 1
    • Pete Member

      Mine was quite quick…. I allowed a few friends to drive it. They were great in their detroit iron. They didn’t know how to keep the engine in the power band shifting. Then I’d take them for a short run. I did get one to say Wow.

      Like 1
      • Mark Ruggiero Member

        And it didn’t take much to add some ponies if one were so inclined. I will say, long drives were, tiresome is a good word for it. I bet the 5 speed in this made for longer legs especially if you needed the highway to get to the twisties.

        Like 0
  8. Courtney Puzzo

    this would be a fun car for a sunny summer day in the mountains like a Mazda Miata or a classic Toyota Celica is though I’d still prefer a full size American 4 door convertible of the era like a Lincoln Continental or an Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale convertible this car weighs only 1,450 LBs while the Oldsmobile weighs roughly 4,000 LBs and the Lincoln weighs up to 5,700 before you add people gas and luggage and the American cars could hold 6 People while the Healey is a 2 seater like the Corvette of which 1963 was the start of C2 generation and also the introduction of the Stingray package

    Like 2
  9. Glemon

    This is not a steal of a deal, but the early square bodied Sprites and Midgets are getting hard to find. If rust free or minimal, probably worth it. As stated, these cars are great fun for the money, had a Mk. III Sprite and two Mk IVs. Brother has a Mk. II he let me drive for a while one winter, the quarter elliptical springs and old had snow tires in the back made for a jouncy ride and interesting handling.

    Like 0
  10. George

    My senior year in high school, I was racing a hopped up 48 Plymouth in my 63 sliding glass Midget, passing the fan convoy, cheer bus, and the football team bus and turned into Tom’s Park More drive in with a 63 Plymouth Indiana State Police officer who claims he chased me for 8 miles and issued me my first ticket ($17.50) for speeding (83 mph)

    Like 1
  11. Bud Hall

    Naysayers not withstanding,…. “it’s more fun to go fast in a slow car, than it is to go slow in a fast car!!”. This one will be a hoot to drive and to open up on a country road. Don’t knock it if you haven’t driven one!!

    Like 0

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